Good morning, and how was your week’s break from Eagles football? The Eagles’ bye couldn’t have come at a better time, and after having this weekend off, they will begin the second half of the schedule at the New York Giants, who are 2-7 after their 23-20 win Sunday in Washington.

The Eagles (3-4-1) remain the team to beat in the NFC East. The fact that they are in first place with a losing record speaks volumes about the division.

Without the unexpected contribution of wide receiver Travis Fulgham, they might not be holding the top spot.

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— Marc Narducci (earlybirds@inquirer.com)

Fulgham’s rise from obscurity

The two biggest surprises of the first half of the season for the Eagles have been Carson Wentz’s regression and Travis Fulgham’s ascension.

With 16 turnovers, (12 interceptions, four lost fumbles) Wentz has taken a major step backward in his fifth season.

Fulgham, little-known less than two months ago, has become indispensable in his five games with the Eagles.

While the Eagles are 3-4-1, they are 3-2 with Fulgham in the lineup. Here are his five games:

Oct. 4, at San Francisco, 25-20 win. This was Fulgham’s Eagles debut. He had two receptions for 57 yards. His 42-yard touchdown reception with 5 minutes, 50 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the Eagles an 18-14 lead, one that they did not relinquish.

Oct. 11 at Pittsburgh, 38-29 loss. Playing against one of the NFL’s best defenses, Fulgham had 10 receptions for 152 yards and a touchdown.

Oct. 18 vs. Baltimore, 30-28 loss. He had six receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown.

Oct. 25 vs. NY Giants, 22-21 win. Fulgham had five receptions for 73 yards.

Nov. 1 vs. Dallas, 23-9 win. He had six receptions for 78 yards and a touchdown. His 9-yard touchdown reception from Wentz gave the Eagles the lead for good, 15-9 with 1:54 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

In five games, he has 29 receptions for 435 yards (15.0 avg.) and four touchdowns.

Entering the weekend, Pro Football Focus, rated Fulgham as the highest-graded of the second-year receivers.

The list:

1. Travis Fulgham, Eagles, 86.0

2. A.J. Brown, Tennessee, 82.8

3. D.K. Metcalf, Seattle, 81.9

4. Terry McLaurin, Washington, 79.4

This is even more impressive considering that Metcalf has emerged as one of the top deep threats in the NFL. (Here is the obligatory line about how the Eagles could have drafted Metcalf last year. He was selected as the last player in the second round of the 2019 draft, 64th overall. The Eagles selected receiver J.J. Arcega-Whiteside 57th overall).

Unlike the other three receivers on the PFF list, who all had strong rookie seasons, Fulgham had no receptions in three games in 2019 with the Detroit Lions. He was a sixth-round choice by Detroit out of Old Dominion.

Fulgham was signed late in August by the Eagles after being waived by the Green Bay Packers. He was released by the Eagles before returning to the practice squad and then making his Eagles debut against San Francisco.

No doubt, opponents are now paying more attention to the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Fulgham, but he has continually gotten open and also has shown an ability to make the contested catch. Most of all, he has breathed life into a banged-up offense, something the Eagles desperately needed.

Eagles coach Doug Pederson has navigated his team well through some difficult setbacks.
YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Eagles coach Doug Pederson has navigated his team well through some difficult setbacks.

What you need to know about the Eagles

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has been plagued by turnovers this season. Here he fumbles against the Cowboys.
YONG KIM/ Staff Photographer
Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has been plagued by turnovers this season. Here he fumbles against the Cowboys.

From the mailbag

Question: Do the Eagles have a specific strategy for reducing Wentz’s fumbles? - David Cohen from Facebook.

Answer: Thanks for the question, David. The strategy for the Eagles concerning Wentz’s fumbles is the same with his interceptions: don’t hold the ball so long. So many of Wentz’s turnovers occur became he won’t give up on a play and makes a bad play, either an interception or a fumble, when the pressure intensifies. As mentioned above, he has thrown 12 interceptions and lost four fumbles, and it is the main reason the Eagles have a losing record. It’s great that Wentz is such a competitor, but he has to play smarter. If he does, the turnovers will likely decrease.